It may or may not be part of a manager’s New Year’s resolution list, but businesses will have no option but to work harder and smarter in 2012.

In good times companies typically relax amid a false sense of security – expanding with the benefits that accompany periods of advantage. Conversely, during lean market conditions, businesses are compelled to operate smarter and tighter.

One resolution to adopt is to run the business leaner during buoyant market conditions. The principle of protecting resources and the ‘survival instinct’ applies.

Another goal is to make the business about people, not just technology. The essence of a competitive, progressive company is its people – human resources is powerful and critical to any sized operation across any industry or sector.

Skills, ICT literacy and exposure to global best practices will be hugely influential and will be critical to differentiation in business.

Businesses need to develop around people and not around technology. As systems get improved and innovative business management solutions implemented, the role of people in the workplace and their level of understanding and training will always be a priority.

If there is one certainty for the year ahead it is that companies will have to be aggressive in their approach to capturing new business and retaining accounts. This is a major challenge amid an ever-turbulent and volatile worldwide economy.

Among the top resolutions will be to make sure you are in a constant state of readiness in terms of market demands and requirements.

Technology will remain a critical influence. Business is entirely dependent on this, particularly from a new media point of view.

There is no doubting the relevance of convergence of unified communications, virtualisation and consolidation of all back-office infrastructure.

At the same time decision makers should bear in mind the risk of splitting assets or utilising technology to the point where it becomes obsolete and damaging to the organisation.

Two important additional resolutions to bear in mind is to learn from market examples, from competitors and equals alike.

In a nutshell, it is important to work harder, work smarter but always retain a sense of purpose in what you do and why you are doing it.

By Robert Sussman, joint CEO, the Integr8 Group